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This report is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

Letter from Dresden Edward Martin

A Sunday night at the Schauspielhaus in Dresden. It's curtain call at the end of the three-evening production of Faust I and II, which has been running in repertory for over a year. As they stand and bow, two of the twenty-strong cast count the meagre audience, one taking the stalls, the other the circle: 103 is their combined total. They started with 150 on the first evening, but that wasn't anywhere near enough either, not in a house that seats four times that number, and certainly not since East German theatres had to stop relying on massive subsidies and start thinking about running costs. Now they need to average 40 per cent capacity over a season.

'But,' says Ahmad Mesghara, one of the counters, 'we played for those 103 people as for a full house. It's a concession to the Dresdeners. There's a special relationship between us which goes back to the eighties, so we give our best, and those that come dress up, make a special evening of it - they still love us.'

Tonight, though, has been a much better night for numbers, despite being a Tuesday: Brecht's Die Dreigroschenoper is packing them in - a sexy, fast-paced comedy-musical high on entertainment value, with the usual classy acting and exquisite set.

'A beautiful nothing,' comments Mesghara, who plays Filch, an ugly beggar forever scratching a livid sore on his hand. 'The production could do with less choreography, more life.'

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